At the request of the Order of Malta, on the 18th of June, Forward Thinking faciliated a workshop on the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa. Doctors from Germany and Lebanon engaged with South African counterparts to discuss best practice in managing the virus.

South Africa took aggressive steps to try and control the virus earlier in the year, including  a strict lockdown. These measures helped buy time for the health system but came with a severe economic cost. Social distancing in the poorest parts of the country were also difficult to enforce due to over-crowding and the reality that many families needed to continue working to secure their basic needs.

The government has recently begun easing lockdown pressures and in response cases have risen rapidly, by 37% in the last week alone. There have now been 0ver 80,000 cases in South Africa and 1,674 deaths, but best estimates are that the peak will not hit the country until early September.

The meeting was therefore a timely opportunity to share insights from countries whose infections appear to have already peaked. Discussions explored the potential infectiousness of children; advice for ventilation and use of oxygen and the role of PPE. There was concern from the South African doctors that HIV or TB (two widespread illnesses in some South African communities) could excarbate Covid-19 but the evidence so far suggests this is not neccesarily the case. Indeed, there is interest in learning if the BCG vaccine (which is still widespread in South Africa) may actually provide an effective defence against Covid-19, with suggestions that studies should be launched in South Africa urgently to shed light on this question.